Unified communications technologies have made waves across industries and around the globe of late, driven by the increasingly common demands of businesses for reliable and powerful collaborative power. From Voice over Internet Protocol business phone services, which were among the first steps toward comprehensive communication unification, to more novel assets such as video conferencing tools and mobility solutions, the modern workplace is far different than that of the past.
Although so many corporate funds have poured into UC solutions and management services in the past few years, there are no signs that the market has reached a plateau of sorts, or will any time soon. Rather, companies are expected to continue on a path of rapid transformation through their IT departments, and this will largely involve UC spending given the need for integrated management capabilities that handle all of the devices, software, users and policies in place.
Late last month, Grand View Research forecast spending on UC systems to exceed $78 billion in annual global investments by the end of the decade, which would represent a compound annual growth rate of roughly 16.3 percent between 2014 and 2020. Perhaps not surprisingly, the firm pointed out that on-premise systems are increasingly falling by the way side, while hosted and cloud-based UC are quickly rising in popularity and adoption.
Small-business owners who want to learn a bit more about the basics of UC as they relate to entrepreneurial matters should consider checking out this quick two-minute video from Cisco on one Main Street store's experience:
Although UC is indeed popular, entrepreneurs might also want to know why these assets are so valuable and worthy of their investments, as well as how the business can use them to their greatest advantage and maximize returns on investment. In many situations, firms will benefit from taking a productivity-centric approach to their UC strategies, meaning that all investments made and processes crafted fuel stronger performance among employees across departments.
A look inside
TechTarget recently explained some of the more common ways in which companies can improve their productivity through the use of UC solutions, affirming that each individual tool in place will have plenty of strategic value. Entrepreneurs will need to ensure that they are balancing somewhat broad-reaching strategies such as those that pertain to collaboration on the whole with more targeted ones that work to position individual services such as VoIP and video conferencing to perform well autonomously.
As a note, the source pointed out that UC, while modern, does not need to only be used for novel processes or objectives, but can be rather effective in overhauling current operations as well, meaning that firms do not need to entirely reinvent the wheel. According to the news provider, the primary function of UC will be to boost individual employee performances and productivity, presenting a more seamless experience to users that keeps the wheels turning more consistently.
This will only be achievable when the business has surveyed its employees and worked to invest in solutions that are already demanded among the workforce, as a failure to do so will result in poor usability and engagement. Getting employees from various departments involved in discussions ahead of the final provisioning stage will help to ensure that each investment is set up for success, rather than blindly choosing tools and hoping for the best.
Looking beyond the primary function, TechTarget argued that team productivity can also be improved when UC strategies are implemented properly, connecting individuals within the physical workplace and those who are operating remotely more seamlessly. Many businesses have started to enable mobile access to core UC frameworks such as VoIP and instant messaging, and this can work wonders for a mobility or telecommuting program.
Finally, the news provider pointed out that these solutions will almost always help to increase the flexibility of operations and agility of the business itself, all the while reducing the amount of strain that would often be placed on IT departments for service delivery and management requirements. This is especially true when entrepreneurs begin to leverage cloud-based, hosted UC solutions from a firm that specializes in delivering these tools.
The finer points
Because all of the assets involved in UC have progressed so quickly, and the fact that many firms have already been using these technologies for long periods of time, leaders are becoming focused on more technical matters within the collaboration framework. For example, UC Strategies recently reported that audio quality has become a far more common aspect of conversations between corporate leaders and communications service providers.
"Businesses must have strong UC quality to enjoy maximum returns."
It is worth noting that when a business does not have strong quality of service for UC solutions, they will not be likely to enjoy the full range of productivity benefits and performance improvements that ought to accompany the deployments. According to the source, so many companies have leveraged UC to enact "workplace transformation," but a lack of clarity on calls or video conferences will not exactly help employees have a good experience regardless of where they might be working.
Rather, these solutions need to be reliable and boast high quality with respect to the imagery, sounds and words involved, depending upon which tool is being discussed. With cloud computing becoming a more popular choice for software, platforms and infrastructure, and already being integrated into a majority of businesses, the best option might be to host UC through these assets for maximum reliability and flexibility.
Cloud-based UC will often be more affordable and powerful than traditional legacy options or even on-premise hosting, as the legwork involved in maintenance, management and service delivery are handled by seasoned, qualified professionals. This can reduce the frequency of issues pertaining to the quality component of contracts, and work to improve the overall reliability and uptime of the communications tools themselves.
With the right managed service provider, the sky will be the limit for UC-based performance improvements and productivity increases for the average small business.